George Russell thought Mercedes’ race pace was ‘really better than Ferrari’s’

Jon Wilde
George Russell's Mercedes heads a train of cars. Spa-Francorchamps August 2022.

George Russell's Mercedes heads a train of cars during the Belgian Grand Prix. Spa-Francorchamps August 2022.

George Russell thought the Belgian Grand Prix showed Mercedes’ race pace was “really better than Ferrari’s”.

The Briton finished fourth at Spa-Francorchamps but was closing on Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari towards the end as he chased another podium finish.

A mistake when he ran wide, losing some of the time he had gained on the Spaniard, ultimately cost Russell the opportunity to throw down a challenge as he crossed the line 2.3 seconds behind Sainz.

But it was still another strong performance from the 24-year-old, considering he had lined up fifth on the grid whereas Sainz had started from pole.

The Red Bulls, however, were in a league of their own as Max Verstappen, who had started 14th on the grid due to an engine penalty, coasted to victory ahead of his team-mate Sergio Perez.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff had described the qualifying session in Belgium as his “worst in 10 years”, but as has been the case so often this season the W13 was a more formidable machine on the Sunday.

That is something of which Russell has been well aware for some time, and he reiterated the view during his post-race interview with Sky F1.

“A little bit mixed feelings right now because had you told me last night we would be two seconds off the podium on merit and pure pace I’d have probably said ‘yeah, that’s a good recovery’, said Russell, whose team-mate Lewis Hamilton retired on the opening lap after a collision with Fernando Alonso for which the Mercedes driver accepted the blame.

“When I was closing in at a second a lap, I thought here we go, we are in for a really good shot here, and then I just had two really scrappy laps and got the tyres out of the window.

“Unfortunately, in F1, tyres seem to be the only thing we ever talk about and when you are in that sweet spot, the car is just transformed. As soon as I lost it, I knew that was really game over [for the podium] but nevertheless P4, two seconds off the podium, not too bad.

“I think definitely today our race pace was really better than the Ferraris’. Carlos was leading the first stint and we closed him in both times. So at worst, I think we are equal with Ferrari today.

“But as we know, it’s swings and roundabouts. But what is clear is Max is kind of cruising away.”